People often create distorted views about what it means to be a good friend and what a healthy relationship looks like. When you operate on such beliefs, it can lead to a constant dissatisfaction regarding relationships. Relating to people based on these myths can also cause an increase in stress and conflicts. Identifying that you function based on these unhealthy views is the first step towards creating change and finding meaningful relationships.
Common Distorted Views:
- “Relationships should be easy and conflict free” This is a distorted view because all relationships will hit road bumps. When you put two people together, there will be times that they are not on the same page and conflict will ensue. By not realizing that this is bound to happen, when the relationship is not easy, you will not be prepared to manage the conflict in a healthy, productive way.
- “There is no changing the dynamic of the relationship.” People evolve and change as time moves forward, which can change what they want or need from a relationship. Sometimes people feel that the relationship can’t change as they change. They might think “it has always been this way and if I try to do something different it will make the other person mad.” The biggest example I see of this in my work as a therapist is when my clients are learning to advocate for themselves. They learn to advocate for their needs in new situations, but have trouble applying the skills to already established relationships. In these relationships, they may feel that they must keep things status quo. They might feel that they have never made certain requests, and therefore, doing so now is not allowed. Being able to change the parameters of a relationship as the two people in the relationship progress is important in maintaining a long lasting, healthy relationship where everyone’s needs can be met.
- “My friend/partner doesn’t mean what they say.” This belief is often unconscious but is something many people struggle with. There might be a certain pessimism and lack of trust in people, resulting in constantly questioning other people’s motives and intentions. An example of how this manifests is not believing a reason someone gives for being unable to hang out and spinning it in your mind thinking things like “they just don’t really want to be my friend,” or “I am not important to them.” This comes out a lot in romantic relationships and a constant overanalyzing of their partner’s behaviors and worrying that they are not really interested.
- “Being a good friend means always being there for the other person.” This is an un-healthy attitude because life is not that black and white. Having this belief often leads people to put their friends needs before their own. If you are unable to emotionally or physically be there for someone at a certain point, that’s ok. Meeting your needs first is important. On the opposite end, I have seen this be a problem for people who don’t allow their friends this courtesy, believing their friends must drop everything when they call. Often that kind of friend is seen as exhausting and that mentality actually pushes people away and brings resentment.
Why these views are problematic
Operating on such beliefs makes it almost impossible to find meaningful satisfying relationships, both romantic and platonic. One of the consequences can be prematurely ending relationships, possibly leading to an instability of friendships. This can especially be an issue with romantic relationships; people who have these distorted views tend to run from their partners at the first sign of trouble. Another outcome can be a general feeling of unhappiness because there is a high level of dissatisfaction in all relationships and not feeling like one has the support that they need.
Many times these distorted views are motivated by a fear of upsetting someone else and being abandoned. Some people have a lot of anxiety about others being mad at them and leaving the friendship. This outcome can feel like it would be the end of the world. Changing this underlying thought process is key to undoing all the secondary beliefs that come along with it (such as the ones I listed above). The first step is reminding yourself that it’s ok if someone gets angry at you. Not advocating for yourself will have more negative long term consequences than upsetting someone in the short term. Also, remember that upsetting someone does not mean the ending of the relationship and understand it is a normal part of friendships. The second part is really looking at how likely it will be that the person will become angry by you doing certain things. Most of the time, the consequences imagined are not actually the result. Therefore, checking in with yourself about the actual facts and reality of the situation will be extremely helpful.